What is it about the word “downsizing” that creates a feeling of dread in most of us? Is it all the decisions that need to be made? Is it the memories we attach to our possessions? Is it because we can’t physically reach all the areas where our things are stored? Is it because we just have too much stuff?!? While downsizing can be a big project filled with emotion, when approached from a positive frame of mind and with proper support, there really is no downside to downsizing!

Join The Crowd

You are not alone if you are considering downsizing your home. According to the 2014 statistics provided by the United States Department of Health and Human Services, the 65+ population will almost double from 40 million to 72 million by 2040, and currently 10,000 individuals 65+ are retiring each day! This also means that resources and markets to help with this process may be stretched thin.

Possession Paralysis-What?!

In a recent study of seniors 60+ conducted by University of Kansas gerontologist, David Ekerdt, 60% responded that they had more possessions than they needed and 75% felt trapped by too much stuff! People are “paralyzed” to make a change because of owning too much stuff!

Whether a person is a shopper, a collector, or has simply lived in the same home for 30, 40, or even 50 years, there will likely come a time when they are faced with the decision to downsize. The need to downsize can be felt by empty nesters who prefer to be free of the maintenance of the large family home, by those who experience the loss of a loved one and seek to relocate closer to family for support, or by folks who have encountered a significant change in their health, requiring spatial adjustments in the home for easier mobility and comfort.

Regardless of what is prompting a person to downsize, the overall goal should be to create a home with your belongings that is manageable, safe, and feels like home.

Where do I Begin?

Some individuals think downsizing means getting rid of everything; not so! Downsizing is about carefully and thoughtfully reducing the quantity of your possessions or the size of your furnishings. For example, do you really need to store a full, 12-piece setting of dishes now that the kids are grown and gone? Could you work with a smaller desk or writing table now that you’re retired? What can make downsizing challenging is shifting our perspective on the items we’ve used for so long and the memories attached to those items.

Because of this, simply coming up with a plan to get started is so mentally overwhelming that some don’t even take the first step even though they know they need to. The prospect of making decisions about every item in the home, finding reputable sources to carry out these decisions and worrying about the possible associated costs is daunting. Getting organized and developing a strategy to follow is key and not as hard as you might think…. but you have to get started!

Begin with a basic assessment of your household belongings. For example, start by spending 15 minutes in each room and ask yourself a few simple questions as you look at your furniture and accessories: Do I love it? – Do I need it? – When did I use it last? Try starting in a guest bedroom or linen closet to get accustomed to the process.

Downsizing Directory

As you make your way through your home, create an inventory. For each item, make a note of “keep/sell/give/donate/trash.” This inventory will become your “Downsizing Directory” and will be helpful in conversations with your family, friends, moving and insurance companies, and household liquidators.

Downsizing is physically demanding, requiring activities such as bending, stooping, reaching and lifting. If you have physical limitations that make these actions difficult, it’s better to start sooner than later so you can work at your own pace and not hurt yourself by over exertion.

The effects of downsizing are different for each of us and can cause a roller coaster of emotions. One closet may contain yellowed office supplies along with a family heirloom passed down to you from favorite aunt. Enlisting the help of family and friends can both ease the physical burden and help you work through the emotional ties to your possessions. Having someone there to share memories with gives you the opportunity to reflect so that you’ll have peace of mind, knowing you’ve made the decision that’s right for you.

The Payoff

There is no sugar coating that there can be a lot of physical and emotional work involved in downsizing. HOWEVER, the rewards are great when you get on the other side. You will have the satisfaction of having directed all the decisions yourself, not passing the burden onto someone else. You will have the comfort of knowing that you have retained the items that are most useful and meaningful to you in your home, with the bonus of having less to maintain and insure, saving you time and money in the process! Finally, you will have peace of mind, having honored the memories attached to your possessions, while reducing the stress associated with having “too much stuff.” See?! As I said, there is no downside to downsizing.

Cindy Greer is a Certified Relocation and Transition Specialist and the owner of Transition With Care, a Charlotte based senior move management company. Cindy and her team specialize in downsizing and relocating adults 55+.

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